Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Symptoms can affect day-to-day life and can become very distressing. Some people may think that depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms.

The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.

About 5 in 100 adults have depression every year. Sometimes it is mild or lasts just a few weeks. However, an episode of depression serious enough to require treatment occurs in about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men at some point in their lives.


Depression affects people in a multitude of different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Although many people recognise when they are depressed, some do not and may not know why they are not functioning well.

The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. However, there are a set of symptoms that are associated with depression and help to clarify the diagnosis. These are:

  • continuous low mood or sadness
  • feeling hopeless and helpless
  • having low self-esteem
  • feeling tearful
  • feeling guilt-ridden
  • not getting any enjoyment out of life
  • feeling anxious or worried
  • having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
  • lack of energy
  • changes in appetite or weight
  • disturbed sleep – for example, finding it difficult to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning
  • not doing well at work
  • avoiding contact with friends and taking part in fewer social activities
  • neglecting your hobbies and interests, like playing video games
  • having difficulties in your home and family life



Many people try to cope with their symptoms without realising they’re unwell. It can often take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong.

Doctors describe depression by how serious it is:

  • mild depression – has some impact on your daily life
  • moderate depression – has a significant impact on your daily life
  • severe depression – make it almost impossible to get through daily life


The exact cause is not known of depression. Anyone can develop depression. Some people are more prone to it and it can develop for no apparent reason. You may have no particular problem or worry, but symptoms can develop quite suddenly.

So, there may be some genetic factor involved that makes some people more prone than others to depression. ‘Genetic’ means that the condition is passed on through families.

Women tend to develop depression more often than men develop it. Particularly common times for women to become depressed are after childbirth (postnatal depression) and the menopause.


If you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day, for more than 2 weeks, you should see your GP.

Antidepressants are commonly used to treat depression and there are several types available. If your GP prescribes you antidepressants, they will discuss the different types and which one would suit you best.

There are also lots of different types of talking therapies available. To help you decide which one would best suit you, you should talk to your GP.

You can also refer yourself directly to your local psychological therapies service.